I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. – Martin Luther King, Jr. – Aug. 28, 1963
Martin Luther King (MLK) Day falls on Monday, January 17th this years. The holiday was first observed on January 20, 1986. It is observed on the third Monday of January rather than directly on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday because it follows the guidelines of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. For many, the holiday is day off from work or school, a day of service, a day of reflection on past and future of civil rights.
Inevitably, there will be many sermons and speeches that will quote excerpts from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. A speech he delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. I don’t know how many times I have heard his speech read. Given the events I will be attending on the 17th, I am sure that I will hear “I Have a Dream” at least three times. Hearing the speech is still inspiring. But I worry — maybe worry is too strong a word — that people will dream of racial reconciliation, racial justice, and racial equity on the seventeenth of January, but do little to nothing do make that dream a reality the other three-hundred-sixty-four days of the year. It is good to be inspired by words — the speeches of others, biblical texts, sermons, books, blogs, podcasts, artistic expressions, and all the other ways that words are used. But words without actions is just a wish. Wishing alone, dreaming alone doesn’t change biased and oppressive systems. Wishing alone, dreaming alone doesn’t bring us any closer to the change we want to see.
I am tempted to say, “I’m done dreaming and I’m all about getting stuff done. It’s time to turn over some tables.” Well, maybe I have said that a time or two already, but the reality is — at least for me — we need both. We need believing AND doing. We need to believe in and for something. We need dreams because dreams give us direction and hope. We have to do something. Note, that is WE need to do something . We each have to what we each have the gifting, passion, and ability to do. We need actions because actions is how we bring about change. Changing the world may begin with a dream, but we need more than a dream to bring about the changes we want to see. We need more than a dream for racial justice. We need more than a wish for voting rights to be protected. We need more than a dream for little Black, White, Asian, Indigenous, Latinx boys and girls to be able to play and learn together in safety. We need action, we need deeds, we need works. We need more than a dream, for faith without works is dead.
- Michelle Loyd-Paige, PhD, January 15, 2022